Highlights of Publishing Educational Research
by Assistant Provost Pamela Brown
1. Components of an Educational Research Paper (1)
Ideally, planning for publication starts before the research projects begins, in order to avoid common pitfalls. The literature survey before the start of a project should suggest possible journals for publication. Study the format of likely journals and keep it in mind for your future publication. A paper should be limited to one significant finding or closely related findings. Typically sections include:
2. Developing Research Questions (2)
Good research questions typically build on current theories. They meet the following criteria:
3. Developing Methodologies (2)
Instruments can be qualitative or quantitative, depending on the research questions. Mixed methods use both to balance the inherent weaknesses of each. All research involving human subjects needs IRB approval or exemptions. Qualitative methods include interviews, observations, case studies and document analysis. Quantitative methods use inferential statistics to reject the null hypothesis – the opposite hypothesis is incorrect. It is not possible to prove that the research hypothesis is correct. Instruments should be valid (accurate) and reliable (reproducible). Identify potential limitations and try to modify the methods to eliminate or minimize. Use of multiple methods can improve the experimental design.
4.Surveys and Tests (2)
Many instruments are already available such as the SALG (Student assessment of learning goals), and the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), to measure changes in metacognitive skills and attitudes.
To test student learning, design questions with a range of difficulty. A plot of percentage correct as a function of increasing difficulty helps to identify questions that might need to be reviewed and revised. Be consistent in style and word choices (use the word “learn” three times, instead of “learn, comprehend, understand”, in three questions comparing student assessment of their experience in lab, lecture and group work). Avoid using “and” and “or” in questions. Instead ask two separate questions. Avoid vocabulary that may be unfamiliar and skew results. Keep items brief. When designing multiple choice questions select “distractors” that are plausible incorrect answers. Select rating scale choices that are clear (strongly disagree instead of very unimportant). Pilot instruments to catch potential problems.
Common Pitfalls in Methodologies (2)
When developing methodologies avoiding common pitfalls will increase your chances of publishing your work. Pitfalls include:
5. Sample Journals for Publishing Educational Research (3)
General Educational Journals
Journal of College Student Development
Journal of College Student Retention
International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
American Educational Research Journal
Journal of the Learning Sciences
Learning and Instruction
Cognition and Instruction
Review of Educational Research
Journal of Research in Science Technology
Journal of College Science Teaching
Journal of STEM Education
American Journal of Physics
The Physics Teacher
Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research
Journal of Chemical Education
Chemical Education Research and Practice
American Biology Teacher
Advances in Physiology Education
CBE-Life Sciences Education
Journal of Engineering Education
European Journal of Engineering Education
Chemical Engineering Education
Journal of Technology Education
6. Sample Educational Publications by City Tech Faculty (2011)
Methodologies for Discussion
Are these methodologies well designed? If not, what is (are) the common error(s)? How could the method be improved?
Methodology: A four week summer bridge course providing college preparation and career advisement was taken by 40 pre-freshmen majoring in biology. All biology students registering for the fall semester were offered the opportunity to take the course. The GPA and one year retention of the summer bridge cohort were compared to all biology freshmen to determine if the course improved GPA and retention.
Discussion: The increased GPA and retention of the summer bridge cohort indicates that the course improved student success
Methodology: An instructor offered two sections of ECON 101 in the fall of 2010 – one with 25 students the other with 50 students. The SALG was used to survey student assessment of their learning in both sections
Discussion: Higher reported learning in the section with 25 students indicates that students learn more as class size decreases.
Methodology: An instructor offered sections of ~500 students each in General Chemistry in both spring 2011 and spring 2012. In spring 2012 clickers were used, but in 2011 they were not.
In both years the Chemical Attitudes and Experiences Questionaire (CAEQ), a commercially available reliable and valid survey instrument, was administered the first day and last day of class to measure changes in student attitudes.
Discussion: Greater improvements in students attitudes in the “clicker” section demonstrate that “clickers” positively impact student attitudes toward chemistry.